Monday, March 20, 2006

Panem et Circense

Panem et Circense: Bread and circuses is a derogatory phrase which can describe either government policies to pacify the citizenry, or the shallow, decadent desires of that same citizenry. In both cases, it refers to low-cost, low-quality, high-availability food and entertainment, and to the exclusion of things which the speaker considers more important, such as art, public works projects, democracy, or human rights.

It originated as the Latin phrase "panem et circenses" (literally "bread and circuses"), and is thought to have been coined by Juvenal, a Roman satiric poet of the 1st century AD, to describe the practice of Roman Emperors who gave unlimited free wheat to the poor and costly circus games as a means of pacifying the populace with food and entertainment. Juvenal bemoaned that it was a deplorable apathy towards heroism.

In fact, the system of free or heavily subsidized food distribution was limited to a minority of Roman Citizens holding a special token (tessera) entitling them to a monthly supply of grain and olive oil from the reign of Septimus Severus. The rations were probably too small to feed a family and the receivers were not necessarily poor or in need of free food. This does not change the fact that the food supply to a city the size of Rome was of primary concern to the emperors in order to avoid popular unrest. (More here).

You can read Juvenal's satires here.

While Chavez was entertaining my fellow Venezuelan sheepmen and sheepwomen insulting Bush, the viaduct that connects Caracas (the capital) with the airport finally collapsed.

Please read Miguel Octavio's important comments about this here.

Bizarro Superman lives in Venezuela.


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